calm my anxious heart

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

One of the most difficult aspects of battling a chronic autoimmune disease, particularly ones involving the thyroid, is the mental struggle. Grave’s Disease carries with it a significant risk towards depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and other mental hang-ups. Chronic disease is insidious, and sometimes when it’s worming its way through your system, you feel nearly overwhelmed by the depth of it.

For me, the mental part has been the symptom that I fight least often, but when those things do come, they come with a force that is both completely unexpected and completely shattering. Which is what’s happened to me over the past week. I went from being a little suspicious that my thyroid levels were not regulated to battling an anxiety and obsessive thought process that I have not felt since the early days of fighting Grave’s Disease.

Mental illness is just not something we typically talk about with any kind of real vulnerability or honesty. While mine is not a traditional mental illness, but rather mental symptoms with a physical cause, from what I can gather, the net result is the same. The way it takes over every part of your life, makes you feel so out of control, and the resulting guilt from the effects that you know your mental state is having on your family…that stuff is all the same.

I’m functioning, but I feel like I’m functioning on the edge. This probably isn’t noticeable to anybody but my family and closest friends. I doubt the people sitting beside me at church or on the bleachers at my son’s basketball game or the ones who talk to me in waiting rooms know that it takes nearly all of my strength to just sit there still when I feel like I want to jump out of my skin. I obsessively clench my hands to help diffuse the tension. My eating is wonky, I have intense hot flashes, I can’t sleep. I obsess about things that are wrong and or that even just might be wrong. I can’t focus, I can’t complete tasks easily, and I cry nearly all of the time. Also? I am hateful to my family. I literally cannot control how irritable I am. It’s that stuff that becomes the worst part. The part that makes you believe it’s a moral failing. That you’re a bad person. That if you were just more self-disciplined or more like Jesus or just more….that you could get past this on your own.

This isn’t a complaint post. This is an explanation post. It’s both a reminder and a confession. Vulnerability comes hard for me sometimes, and this particular issue makes me feel like the lowest of the low. It’s embarrassing, and as much as I don’t like to admit it, it’s partly embarrassing because of how I refuse to consider these things about others. I don’t know what burdens people bear. I get irritated before I give the benefit of the doubt. I judge when instead I should always show mercy. I am not the person that I hope others would be towards me.

This post is the hardest thing I’ve done in a very long time, but I need to write it out. At a time when writing comes so difficult for me, I need to put my words to page. To release some of the anxiety through shaky thyroid-tremor fingers while the experience is fresh. If I wait, I’ll forget. I’ll excuse and rationalize my way out of the full extent of my symptoms.

This week they’ll draw my blood yet again as they’ve done every eight weeks for the last eight months or so. My meds will be adjusted accordingly, and in a couple weeks, I’ll probably start to feel better. In the meantime, I do yoga, drink my weight in hot tea, and try every possible herb that may help. I pray. I sing. I cry. I hope beyond hope that my children do not remember these days when they’re older.

So if I’m not writing often, now you know why. If I flush when I see you, partly that’s my illness, partly that’s my shame. If you have a loved one that battles a chronic disease, then please remember this story and show a little compassion. It’s harder than you think, and the worst thing about it is that it never goes away. Thankfully, I know I don’t have to live in this place for long. I know even if anxiety is my constant friend, if obsessive thinking is never far from me, even in that I can find joy and peace. Because He who promised is faithful, and I know His promises.

Tonight, I’m clinging to the promise that my soul finds rest in God alone. The promise that He is faithful even in the struggle. The promise that His power is made perfect in my weakness. The promise that I am never abandoned or destroyed, and no matter how bruised, I will not be crushed. The promise of healing, even though that healing will almost assuredly come at the hands of traditional medicine. All of His promises are Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus, and tonight, I say Yes. Amen.

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